City housing incentive nearly ready

Downtown Juneau.

The city is only months away from implementing its accessory apartment incentive program, Lands and Resources Manager Greg Chaney told the members of the Affordable Housing Commission Tuesday evening.

“By the end of the year, we will have the program up and running, and we’ll be shouting from every rooftop to get things going,” Chaney told the Empire after the meeting.

Under the program, the city will award a dozen $6,000 grants to homeowners who build accessory apartments onto their homes. There is a catch, however. They have to have a certificate of occupancy within a year from the start of the project. The goal is to incentivize prompt development to help boost Juneau’s housing market, Chaney said. Funding for the grants will come out of the city’s housing fund, and they will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

During the meeting, committee member Wayne Coogan likened the program to homesteading.

“You got the homestead by standing in line first,” he said drawing a few chuckles from other committee members. “Let’s stay with this tradition. This is the United States. Let’s do this.”

This accessory apartment grant program wasn’t the only new business on the committee’s agenda for the evening. Coogan became the center of attention later in the meeting when he presented his plans to restore the twice-burned Gastineau Apartments. This plan would add 44 units of affordable housing to the downtown area, he said.

Coogan and his co-venturers, both of whom are coming from Washington, will be meeting with the city later this week to discuss their plan and “the buffet of things that are needed to move this project forward.”

“At the very least this group will be able to give the city some options,” he told his fellow committee members. “The worst-case scenario is that the city will have lost some time, a couple of weeks, off of the awarding of the bid contract for this. The upside is pretty high.”

Chaney also updated the committee on the Pederson Hill and Redinger subdivisions, both of which are moving along. The Redinger Subdivision in Lemon Creek should “be a real place to develop and live in” by next summer he said.

All of these housing updates followed a fairly brief discussion about the city’s Housing Action Plan, which the committee hopes to make available for public comment by the end of the year.

The committee, which originally commissioned the plan, noticed a few errors in the report and will request that they be fixed before putting it out to the public. Both Chaney and Assembly member Kate Troll, who is a liaison to the Affordable Housing Commission, discussed the importance of correcting the report, which they said omitted contextual details.

“There are some important recommendations in here, and you don’t want the recommendations to go down because of the report,” Troll said.

Charles Buki, the head of the Virginia-based consulting firm that put together the report, presented it to the Assembly at its work session last week. Among several recommendations, the plan calls for the city to create “a set of incentives to reduce private and nonprofit developer risk and to entice them to act in ways that help unstick Juneau’s housing market.”

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